Monday, January 27, 2014

Kill good ideas. How I set priorities.

This post was originally published to Daniel Jefferies' Medium blog feed.
“Killing bad ideas isn’t that hard — lots of companies, even bad companies, are good at that. What is really hard — and a hallmark of great companies — is killing good ideas.” — Steve Jobs

I first read this quote in a great article in Harvard Business Review back in 2010 and it really stuck with me. The author went on to explain that “for any single good idea to succeed, it needs a lot of resources, time, and attention, and so only a few ideas can be developed fully. The challenge is to be tough enough to do the pruning so that the survivors have a chance of being implemented properly and reaching their full potential.”

As we discussed in my previous post, good priorities are the first step to choosing what data we want to measure, finding your team’s rhythm and developing a focused workplan.

I have essentially adopted the quote above as my guiding principal when I approach Priorities. If I sense that our team is beginning to lose focus, I start hunting for some good ideas to kill.

There are additional guidelines that I use for choosing good goals and priorities to guide the team. Here they are:

Priorities should be big

Save the minute detail for you workplan. Priorities should be broad strokes. They are what point your little ship in the right direction. Focus on the big picture at this stage. If you haven't already, it might be good to think about the entire life of your company, what is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal for the entire life of the company? Now pull back from that and make a priority for the coming year or quarter that supports that goal but is achievable in the shorter term.

Priorities should be few

Dieter Rams, the great industrial designer, has 10 principles of good design. The 10th, and my personal favorite, is “as little design as possible”. Michelangelo was quoted as saying that he “set his sculptures free” by removing all the stone that did not belong. Priorities are best created in a similar reductive process. If you can work with a single priority that is excellent. I try to limit my teams to never more than three but always as few as possible.

Priorities should be qualitative as well as quantitative

Often, particularly in sales driven teams, there is a temptation to always make priorities and goals that are some quantitative target. ”10% increase in revenue” or “30 new customers signed” are quantitative goals. The trouble with this approach comes when you are doing bad work. 10% more bad work won't help you very much. In fact it will probably hurt you. If you mix in some qualitative priorities you can ensure that you are doing great work which tends to make it far easier to meet your quantitative goals.

So we've talked about big hairy audacious goals and killing good ideas. As usual, I would love to learn from you as well. How do you set your priorities? What is wrong or left out of my approach? Please leave a comment, recommendation, or reply on twitter.

Daniel Jefferies
Daniel Jefferies is the founder of Newmind Group. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Newmind Group began as a small, regional IT company in 2003. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chromebooks Update [January 2014]

Notable new features include:
  • Supervised users available to all
  • Tab indicators for sound, webcam and casting
  • Automatically Blocking Malware
Full release notes below...

Newmind State of Chromebooks 2014 Survey

We invite you to participate in the "State of Chromebooks" 2014 survey. Join your peers in this anonymous survey and gain insights into:

  • Most popular manufacturers
  • CIPA compliance solutions
  • Adoption of 1:1 environments
  • Network Infrastructure

Monday, January 13, 2014

A minimal framework for managing small teams

This post was originally published to Daniel Jefferies' Medium blog feed.

Imagine you are going on an expedition. There is no map, you need to make one yourself. You are certain there are dangers but you have no idea where they might be or how they will threaten you. Oh yeah, forgot one thing, you aren’t even completely sure if the destination you want to get to even exists at all. But, if you can find it, you will be the first person to set foot there. You will make history. You will be in uncharted territory.

Does this sound like a great adventure? Are you wondering where to sign up? Does it sound like the worst idea ever?

This is what it feels like to create a company, in my experience. Managing and building the team that builds that company is the map making part. A map of undiscovered country. The company DNA.

I want to share with you how I have built these maps in the past. I’m not saying it is a perfect method but it has worked for me. Most of it is borrowed and stolen from lots of sources and folks that are far smarter then I am.

Lets start with a quick overview.


You need to identify what it is that you want to make happen. Your goals.

For my friend Joe and his company TrakGear, this would probably be something like “Signup x number of paying customers” In the beginning when you are small you should try to have a single goal. You don’t have many resources at that point so you need to focus them to make an impact.


“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is an old management adage that many attribute to Peter Drucker. Have a look at your priorities and choose a couple of key data points that will help you measure your progress toward the goal. Somebody in my friend Joe’s position may want to use Dave McClure’s excellent Metrics for Pirates talk as a starting point for what to measure since this is a well thought out framework for measuring web-based products like TrakGear.


Almost all living things have rhythm; heartbeats, pulses, breathing, blinking. These rhythms give our bodies tiny goals to meet which all add up to the larger goal of keeping us alive. Businesses are the same. They need to get into a rhythm of tiny goals that feed the larger priority. These rhythms are things like how often you want to communicate with your customers, how often do you meet with your team, how often to release new versions of you product. This is an often overlooked piece of the puzzle but a critical one if you are to get into a productive flow with your team.


Now we’ve made it down to the practical stuff. The stuff you need to get done. Your workplan is all the things that you intend to do to make your priorities and goals happen. Why do we make our workplan last? Pretty simple actually. Because now our priorities, data and rhythm give us a framework to decide what makes it onto the to do list and what we leave off the list. Does this action directly lead to my priority? Will this action drive the data points that I’m measuring? Is this action part of my rhythm? If the answers to these questions are no then the action doesn’t make it onto the list. Be ruthless. Kill good ideas. Only let the great ones live.

Hopefully that gives you a good sense of the framework. In the coming weeks I’m going to try to write a post each week (that’s a weekly rhythm friends) about a new component of the framework.

In the meantime, I need to ask for a favor. I want the next four posts to be as useful as possible. Also, being new to Medium I’d love to see the comment system in action from an authors perspective. So please be generous with your feedback. I will use that information to inform the rest of the series.

Daniel Jefferies
Daniel Jefferies is the founder of Newmind Group. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Newmind Group began as a small, regional IT company in 2003. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Newmind Announces New CEO

Some of you may have heard that there is big news coming from Newmind in the new year? Well 2014 is officially here and it is time to reveal what we’ve got up our sleeves.

Should we do a drumroll or something?   Nah.  I’ll just tell you.

I’m really excited to announce that our own Matt Vollmar will be taking the CEO role at Newmind and leading us into 2014 and beyond!

For those of you that have had the pleasure of meeting Matt this might not come as a surprise. After spending only a short time with him it is easy to see why he is CEO material.